While studying for my Masters of Wisdom & Meditation Teacher certification, I was exposed to a bevy of wonderful philosophies and teachings that I loved.
One book that has had a profound affect on my day to day living is The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you can let them become a daily practice your life will become a little less stressful and much more peaceful.
The Four Agreements are:
#1 Be impeccable with your word. #2 Don't take anything personally. #3 Don't make assumptions. #4 Always do your best.
Simple, right? They lay it right on the line and cut directly to the heart of their meaning. They can be incredibly difficult to live - or incredibly easy. Part of the trick is remembering them and putting them into action.
When you can do that, it is so much easier to release and let go of what may be bringing you down. No, you don't want to run away from your feelings, but as I've heard said - you don't have to stay living there. For me, I've found that #2 and #3 are the Agreements that have made the biggest difference in my life, but lets start at the beginning.
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
For me this brings to mind The Three Gates. Before speaking you want to ask yourself - Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? It can be challenging to put into practice - some students have told me they would probably never say anything if they were following these guidelines.
But the words we use and what we say can have such a powerful impact on those around us. Whether we speak with kindness or with anger can make or break a persons day. Do we really need to share what we think - all of the time - because of course we think we are right? Or are we? Whether speaking to those within our own four walls or at the corner store, be aware of the words that you choose.
Don't Take Anything Personally.
This is a big one and I think the most difficult to live. Don Miguel teaches that it is all a matter of perspective - that of the other person. What someone thinks of you and what they say to you is a result of their perspective on the situation - and there is a very good chance that their perspective is going to be different from yours.
Everyone has had different experiences colour their lives from the time they were infants, and on the day that you feel like you are taking a hit, anything may have happened to spur their reaction. No matter how hurtful their words or actions may be, the key is to always go back to that realization.
If you know you have done something wrong that provoked their reaction, that may be a different story, (although it's still being seen from their perspective) but if you know and feel in your heart that you are doing the very best you can and still taking a hit, the 2nd Agreement can be very helpful. Perspective, perspective, perspective!
Don't Make Assumptions.
This one can be a life-saver, in more ways than one. It can save you so much confusion, heartache and worry. The antidote? Simply ask. If you don't know what you are supposed to do, instead of assuming ask for clarification. If you don't understand what or why someone is doing something - ask.
A few years ago, shortly after reading this book, I spent two days worrying and fretting that I had unintentionally hurt someones feelings when I received a one-sentence e-mail reply after a telephone conversation. Remembering this agreement I finally summoned up the courage to call and ask if I had upset her, fully prepared to apologize if I had. My assumption was completely wrong. She wasn't upset at all - she was simply in a hurry when she wrote the e-mail.
Lesson learned on two fronts with that one! If I had continued to make the assumption, without asking for clarification, my anxiety over the situation would have continued to escalate. What I have found is that every time I let this one go and allow myself to make or wallow in my assumptions - it turns around and creates an even bigger problem than if I had just stopped the assumption in its tracks!
Always Do Your Best.
Pretty self-explanatory, isn't it? This does not mean that you always need to be Superwoman or Superman. Somedays you feel better than others and that's okay. On a day when you are sick, your best isn't going to be the same as on a day when you are feeling at the top of your game. But giving 100% of whatever you've got for that day is enough. And on the day when you are feeling great, that 100% will simply be at a different level.
Good Grief! How Do I Make The Four Agreements Work For Me?
I believe that awareness is the key factor and meditation definitely makes a difference in the awareness department. My meditation practice makes me so much more aware of everything - from the beauty of nature outside my window to the gratitude I feel for my life every day.
It also makes me more aware of when I'm not 'walking my talk', when I'm doing or saying things that don't serve me or my loved ones, or when I'm not living The Four Agreements. You catch yourself sooner which lets you correct or change your behaviour more quickly. Sometimes its immediate, and sometimes it can take a day or two - but the realization always comes and the course can be corrected.
I stop making those darned assumptions. I work really hard at trying not to take things personally and remember that whatever is happening is coming from the other person's perspective - and I try to see and understand what that may be.
Which of course can lead to more assumptions - and there we go again! So I circle back and try to decide what to do with it all - keeping all four of the Agreements in mind. Because if you want to argue with them about their perspective it brings us back to the First Agreement......
This of course, is a very simplified version of the teaching, but it has truly been a game-changer for me so I wanted to share it with you. It makes life a little easier, helps with my stress levels and creates far less drama. And isn't that what we're all looking for?
If these concepts have piqued your interest I would encourage you to read the book or listen to the audio version to get the full value of his teaching. It is not one of those weighty tomes that will take you many hours to read and absorb. It is to the point with concrete examples and information that will make you think - and it might even - dare I assume to say it - change your life for the better.
This link will take you to my resources page where you can view a list of other books I love, including The Four Agreements.
Hi, Glenda here sharing my thoughts with you. I've discovered that what I really do is help people find more peace in a way that is real-world, practical and accessible to anyone.
I'm a Certified davidji Masters of Wisdom & Meditation Teacher, Qigong Instructor, a Reiki Master and facilitator and host of retreats and workshops. I welcome your comments and appreciate you taking the time to read this blog.
Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or would simply like to reach out.